The 6 Best Mini PCs to Buy in 2017

Shop for the best budget, over-the-top and customizable Mini PCs

Looking to buy a Mini PC? Chances are performance isn’t the top reason for wanting one (as these units are not positioned nor made for muscle), but they offer a sleek, compact design and have just enough computing power to fulfill a variety of everyday tasks. Unsure of where to start? Check out our top six mini PCs. From Apple's over-the-top and hard-to-beat Mac Mini to the budget-friendly Asus Chromebox, you're sure to find a Mini PC that suits your needs.

Best Overall: Mac Mini

Mac Mini
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Pound for pound, the Mac Mini is the winner in a closely contested Mini PC slugfest. As Apple’s website states: “It’s mini in a massive way." The path to victory for the Mac Mini was not without challenge and, if living in an OS X world isn’t for you, there are plenty of worthy options on this list. However, it’s hard to ignore that the Mac Mini offers a computing experience that rivals the larger iMacs that are more than twice the price.

For the casual user, the Mac Mini is a superb choice, offering up more than enough “oomph” with its 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processors, 4-8GB of RAM, 5400 RPM and up to 1 TB of hard drive space; it weighs 2.7 pounds and has four USB 3.0 ports. Like some other options on this list, you’ll get the unit, a power cable and not much else. It’s up to you to supply the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Thankfully, Apple’s standard Bluetooth keyboard and magic mouse are best in class, as long as you don’t mind their premium price tag.

Best Budget: Dell Inspiron i3050

Dell Inspiron i3050
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Don’t let the small size fool you: Dell’s Inspiron i3050 is a fully functional Windows 10 desktop PC. Slightly smaller than the Mac Mini, Dell’s design won’t win any awards with its simple black chassis, but inside you’ll find a modest 2.41GHz Intel Dual-Core Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. It comes with three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, as well as a wired mouse and keyboard.

This might be the perfect option if you just want something dedicated to Amazon Instant Video, HULU and Netflix. You’ll still find enough power to run a wide selection of Windows apps, but you’ll need tempered expectations for how well a machine like this can handle. (Don't expect it to run more power-intensive apps like Photoshop and video-editing.)

The low price point doesn’t present additional expansion options but we really can’t argue with a perfectly usable PC that costs less than some high-end keyboards. For just the basics, unless you want to look at learning Chrome OS, you can’t do much better than Dell’s entry-level Mini PC.

Best Design: HP Pavilion 300-230 Mini Desktop

HP Pavilion 300-230 Mini Desktop
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Smaller than the Mac Mini and with a price tag slightly higher than the Revo One, the HP Pavilion is a solid choice for the Mini PC crowd. However, if you’re looking for a Mini PC that can keep up with video-editing or gaming, just rewind to the Mac Mini as this unit isn’t for you. The Pavilion arrives with a keyboard and mouse (though we’d recommend third-party options for more comfort). There’s plenty of life in the 1.5-pound Pavilion Mini, with a 2.0 GHz Intel Core i3 processor, Windows 10, 4GB of RAM, four USB 3.0 ports, 5400 RPM and a 1TB hard drive. So that means browsing the web, streaming HD video and running all your productivity apps can be done without breaking a sweat on the Pavilion.

There’s a nice balance between attractive design, performance and the small footprint that makes this a great option. One of the only downsides is that you’ll have to wade through the extra software, also known as bloatware, that HP ships with all new models.

Best Build-Your-Own: Intel NUC NUC5i5RYH

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The Intel NUC is widely viewed as one of the best Mini PCs on the market today, with one major caveat: Unlike the other systems on this list, the NUC requires the buyer to bring their own RAM, operating system (see Windows 10) and storage. While this computer isn’t designed with the beginner in mind, it shows up on our list as Amazon offers some pre-configured versions which include the Intel Core processor. There’s still the need for some of your own hardware and operating system which can drive up cost, but the end result can be a Mini PC with desktop-like performance at a comparable price tag.

The sleek looking case is bare-bones at first glance, but you’re not buying the NUC for looks alone. You’re paying for the small size (5.2 x 5.2 x 2.1 inches) plus potential big performance. It comes with Intel Iris graphics 540 and USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports. Make no mistake, the Intel NUC is designed and created for those who are willing to take on the build-your-own-pc idea, but when it comes to customization, sky's the limit.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Acer’s Revo One

Acer Revo One
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The fully equipped Acer Revo One has a 2.1GHz Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive. There’s nothing particularly breathtaking about its aesthetic, but it’s small enough that you’ll set it on a desk and forget its even there. As with most Mini PCs, the Revo One won’t score off the charts in any benchmark tests, but that’s not its intent. There’s more than enough capability here for day-to-day tasks, but you’ll want to look elsewhere if gaming is high on your priorities list.

There are two USB 2.0 ports on the back for adding a keyboard and mouse, things you’ll want to add on your own as the ones that come with the Revo are not the best quality. There are also two additional USB 3.0 ports for future-proofing and HDMI out for plugging into a monitor and/or TV. And you'll want to use that, because the mini PC comes equipped with Intel HD Graphics 5500.

There’s a lot to like about the Revo One: It’s well-designed and has plenty of expansion capabilities to add more hard drive space as your needs grow.

Runner-Up, Best Budget: Asus Chromebox

ASus Chromebox
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If basic computing needs and a welcoming price tag are at the top of your Mini PC wish list, the Asus Chromebox might be exactly what you’re looking for (just be prepared to use rely on Google docs heavily, as you won't be able to use Microsoft Office).

The Chromebox box is just 12.8 x 8.3 x 2.3 inches and manages to fit four USB ports for a keyboard, mouse and additional items. Overall performance is surprisingly good: There's a 1.4 GHz Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of SSD memory (plus two years free of 100GB Google Cloud Storage).

If all you really need is a sensibly priced small computer to get online and perform basic web tasks, you’ll find the pricing and Chrome OS combination to be very attractive.

Best Splurge: Gigabyte Mini PC Barebone

Gigabyte Mini PC Barebone
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Don’t let the bright red cube fool you, the Gigabyte Mini PC Barebone is an outstanding mini PC and well worth the $500 plus price tag. Featuring a 4th generation 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and Intel Iris Pro graphics 5200, the Gigabyte is ready to fly. You’ll have to provide your own RAM, and up to 16GB of DDR3 can be installed along with a hard drive and OS. Rest assured, after a little bit of leg work this computer will provide outstanding performance.

The overall hardware weighs just 4 pounds and measures 8 x 6 x 7-inches, so it’s more than desk friendly. Support for 802.11bgn WiFi plus Bluetooth is already preinstalled next to the open slot for the 2.5” hard drive. The Gigabyte can also double as a nice little media center with 4K output at 24 Hz, which makes it perfect for hooking up to TV or a monitor. While the addition of RAM and a HD can add to the cost, the Gigabyte is worth the splurge. It’s small, attractive and ready for action. 


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